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'Andaman video circulating among tour operators'

Posted on Jan 11 2012 | IBNS

Panaji, Jan 11 : British journalist Gethin Chamberlain, whose story on Andaman's endangered Jarawa tribe being used to entertain tourists created an outcry, said he procured the video showing them dancing from local tour operators.

"The video is circulating among tour operators. I'm told it was shot in recent years, though we don't have an exact date.

"The police claims that it is 10 years old are pure guesswork and it is clearly much fresher than that. From the nature of the file, it appears to have been shot on a mobile phone, which brings it closer to the present," Gethin Chamberlain told IBNS from Goa, where he is based in India.

The shocking video of the endangered Andaman tribal people, including their women folks who live uncovered waist up, dancing to entertain tourists published by the British newspapers The Observer and The Guardian has created a controversy with the authorities in the archipelago coming under attack from all quarters now.

The controversies surround the tourist video of the Jarawas who are a little over 400 in number living in South Andamans.

The Union Home Ministry has reportedly asked for report from the local authorities following the report while Andaman police said it was shot in 2002 perhaps and not a new one.

The report by British journalist Gethin Chamberlain says a policeman commanded the tribal women to dance before the tourists who captured it on camera.

The journalist said: "I think many in the police there are doing a good job, protecting the Jarawa. I think they are let down by colleagues who know they can make a quick buck by colluding with tour operators who regard the Jarawa as northing more than a way to make money."

"The police claims that the video was snot in 2002 are pure fiction. I listened to Deol [DGP of Andaman] being interviewed: he doesn't know when it was shot," said Chamberlain.

He said: "His own colleague, SB Tyagi, superintendent of police for South Andaman, who I interviewed because Deol failed to show up for a prearranged interview, admitted that they have problems: 'The moment we come across any misdemeanour on the part of our police officers they are dealt with swiftly.

The tour operators and police are local so there may be situations were they look the other way. They may be incidents where our officers are negligent and we have taken action."

"That's what he told me. Police have also disciplined an officer last summer for allowing access to Jarawa. It is clearly going on. They are more worried about watching their own backs than about protecting this tribe from abuse," said Chamberlain.

In his report in The Guardian and Observer, Chamberlain wrote: "The role of the police is to protect tribespeople from unwelcome and intrusive outsiders. But on this occasion the officer had accepted a GBP 200 bribe to get the girls to perform. 'I gave you food,'he reminded them at the start of the video."

He added that the tourists throw bananas and other food at the tribal people as if they are animals in a safari park.

"What do you mean by Jarawa women made to dance naked? They are naked. They live naked. This video may be ten years old now being brought out for someone's purposes," said S B Deol, Director General of Police, Anadamans.

According to Survival International, the ancestors of the Jarawa and the other tribes of the Andaman Islands are thought to have been part of the first successful human migrations out of Africa.

It says the Jarawas hunt pig and monitor lizard, fish with bows and arrows, and gather seeds, berries and honey. They are nomadic, living in bands of 40-50 people. In 1998, some Jarawa started coming out of their forest to visit nearby towns and settlements for the first time.

According to Survival International, the principal threat to the Jarawa's existence comes from encroachment onto their land, which was sparked by the building of a highway through their forest in the 1970s.

"The road brings settlers, poachers and loggers into the heart of their land. This encroachment risks exposing the Jarawa to diseases to which they have no immunity, and creating a dependency on outsiders. Poachers steal the game the Jarawa rely on, and there are reports of sexual exploitation of Jarawa women," it said.

"Tourism is also a threat to the Jarawa, with tour operators driving tourists along the road through the reserve every day in the hope of 'spotting' members of the tribe. Despite prohibitions, tourists often stop to make contact with the Jarawa," it said.

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